US Health giant Aetna promotes Apple Watch for health purposes

29 September 2016
As part of the program, Aetna will make the Apple Watch available to a select group of large employers and individual customers during open enrollment season. Aetna also plans to reduce "a significant portion" of the Apple Watch cost through monthly payroll deductions.

The Insurance company isn’t going to hand out Apple Watches to clients, but it will distribute the Apple Watch for free to its 50,000 employees, who will participate in the company's "wellness reimbursement program."

Integrating wearables in corporate wellness programs

Aetna joins a long list of companies that have integrated wearables as part of their corporate wellness program, website The Verge writes. Earlier this year, Vitality, a lifestyle and wellness programs provider, announced a scheme where workers are able to purchase a $350 Apple Watch for $25 provided that they meet their exercise goals. The Apple Watch Series 2 and its WatchOS have been equiped with more healthrelated hardware and applications.

Insurance startup Oscar Health lets clients choose between an Apple Watch and Qantas points if they purchase their "Qantas Assure Health Insurance Policy." In June this year, Fitbit announced the launch of its new corporate wellness service, building on its existing relationships with Fortune 500 companies, over 70 of which have reportedly adopted their programs.

The effectiveness of wearables on health and fitness, however, has come into question recently. A study investigating people who were aiming to lose weight found that those who wore fitness trackers lost less weight than those without. The Apple Watch 2 was also found lacking certain popular fitness and health functionalities, although the company is reportedly working to fix this gap.

Wearables improve participation

Recent research by ABI suggested that using wearables as part of corporate wellness programs increases participation rates by employees.  Early data suggests that corporate wellness programs with wearable devices increase average employee participation from 20 percent to between 60 and 70 percent, with some employers reporting participation rates above 90 percent. ABI expects 44 million wearable devices to be used in corporate wellness plans in the next five years.

Boundaries are blurring

Rune Mehlum, Senior Manager Systems Engineering Benelux and Nordics, Industry Lead EMEA Healthcare, EMC, wrote in a blog that the boundaries between consumer based technology used for health related purposes and specifically for medical and clinical use developed devices are blurring. A convergence is taking place where consumer tech becomes ever more precise and clinical devices are adopting a ‘sexiness’ of design – a blurring of the boundaries.

The measurements and results from consumer grade electronics are getting closer to the clinically approved kind. Preventive care would be made much easier if consumer devices are in the loop. They can get medical data to healthcare professionals earlier - before the issue is so big that the user/patient notices it - without to much hassle for the wearer of the device collecting the data (like a smartwatch).